Cyprus is one of the few countries in the world with the lowest levels of pharmaceutical contamination in its rivers, a study of the Global Monitoring of Pharmaceuticals project showed.
The study monitored 1052 sampling sites along 258 rivers in 104 countries of all continents, which represents the pharmaceutical footprint of 471.4 million people. The purpose of this study was to highlight the presence of these contaminants in surface water which poses a threat to the environment and/or human health. As a result, pharmaceutical compounds were found in more than a quarter of the studied locations globally. It also indicated that concentrations of at least one pharmaceutical compound were above acceptable levels making them toxic to algae, fish, or daphnia.
According to the University of Cyprus, the project was coordinated by the University of York in the framework of the Global Monitoring of Pharmaceuticals Project and under Professor Dr. Alistair Boxall and Dr. John Wilkinson. Cyprus participated in the project through the International Water Research Centre and its director Despo Fatta-Kassinos and Dr. Leda Ioannou Tofa.
According to its website, the Global Monitoring of Pharmaceuticals Project emerged out of a pursuit to better understand the extent and causes of the medicinal contamination of freshwater worldwide. As the first truly global and largest study of its kind, the project assembled a network of over 120 collaborators around the world. Concentrations of 61 pharmaceutical compounds were measured across 104 countries. Thirty-six of these countries had never been studied for the occurrence of pharmaceutical compounds in surface water before.
Some of the key findings show that of the 61 pharmaceutical compounds monitored, 53 were detected in at least one sampling site, and a total of 4 were detected across all 7 continents.
The most polluted sampling site worldwide was located in the Rio Seke (La Paz, Bolivia) which had a cumulative pharmaceutical concentration of 297 µg/L. This is 115 times higher than concentrations from the East River in New York City, the website said.
Iceland was the only country where none of the 61 monitored pharmaceutical compounds were detected.
Metformin (used to treat Type-2 diabetes), caffeine and carbamazepine (used to treat epilepsy and nerve pain) were detected in more than half of the studied sites worldwide. Caffeine was detected across all 7 continents.
A total of 34 pharmaceutical compounds were detected in the Kai Tak River in Hong Kong. This was more than in any other river that was studied.
The single highest concentration of any pharmaceutical compound detected in the study was 227 µg/L of paracetamol in Bolivia.
Although typically used to treat headaches, some in Nigeria use the medication to help tenderize meat and beans while cooking.
According to Dr. Fatta-Kassinos, monitoring the presence of pharmaceutical compounds in the environment can help in developing strategies and policies that aim to restrict the use of these compounds as well as reduce their repercussions on the environment and human health.
Ιn the case of Cyprus, said Dr. Tofa, the Kargotis river was chosen to be included in the study after collection and processing of data available by the Water Development Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment.
The Kargotis river flows from the north-eastern slopes of the Troodos peaks and into the Turkish-occupied Morphou bay and has a length of 24.750 meters.
Samples were taken from various points of the river along Kakopetria and Galata communities.
The findings indicate that Cyprus is among the countries with the lowest pharmaceutical compound concentrations with less than 200 ng/L.
Rivers in Pakistan, Bolivia and Ethiopia were among the most polluted. Rivers in Iceland, Norway and the Amazon rainforest fared the best.